Tracey Ho on New Paper

October 13, 2005 at 12:37 pm 4 comments

Almost a month ago, I blogged about an ex-President’s scholar. Today, the New Paper has an article on her.

Surprisingly no mention about whether she’s a bond-breaker, since she’s a National Science Scholar from A*star.

Related: Quarter Life Crisis’ take on this.

The Electric New Paper :
# President’s Scholar
# National shooter
She’s also one of the World’s top young innovators
MEET Typhoon Tracey.
By Tay Shian
14 October 2005

MEET Typhoon Tracey.

That’s one of the names people use when talking about her.

And another T word crops up a lot.


After all, Dr Tracey Ho, 29, is:

# A top student who was a President’s Scholar.

# A top shooter who has represented Singapore.

# And now, one of the world’s top 35 innovators under 35.

The electrical engineering and computer science researcher joins an elite list, called the TR35. It is published by Technology Review, the innovation magazine of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US.

It comprises young innovators whose ‘achievements will shape the world we live in for decades to come,’ the magazine said on its website.

‘They gravitate to the most interesting and difficult scientific and engineering problems at hand, and arrive at solutions no one had imagined.’

Also on this year’s list are big names like Mr Bram Cohen, 29, the inventor of BitTorrent.

BitTorrent revolutionised file sharing on the Internet by allowing large files like movies to move much faster through cyberspace.

Dr Ho is on this year’s list for her research on faster and more efficient ways to send information over the Internet and other networks.

In a thesis she wrote while doing her PhD at MIT, she proposed a scheme which improves network efficiency when files are too big or are sent to many users.

Dr Ho’s research caught the eye of software giant Microsoft.

Just months after she presented the idea in 2003, Microsoft researchers showed that it can clearly outperform today’s systems and decided to commercialise it.

Associate Professor Muriel Medard, Dr Ho’s PhD adviser, told Technology Review: ‘It’s not just that it works; you can’t make it work better.’

But Dr Ho makes light of what she has accomplished.

‘The work that I do is just one little piece of the puzzle,’ she said on a phone interview with The New Paper from the US.

She credited her MIT professors who were ‘really good mentors’, and the ‘dedicated and encouraging’ teachers she had in Singapore.

Humble words from the eldest child of two medical doctors, who was once tested as having an IQ of 180 (‘You can’t trust this stuff, I did it when I was young,’ she jokes.)

The IQ of an average person is about 100.

Dr Ho said research is a ‘very stimulating and exciting job – there are thrills and disappointments, surprises’.

So, what does it mean to be an innovator?

‘Thinking of new ways to solve problems. Thinking along new lines, getting new ideas.’

Any tips for aspiring innovators?

‘I think that ideas pop up unpredictably but are probably helped by reading about other ideas and persistently mulling over a problem for long enough… I think innovators benefit from persistence, hard work, and constantly being exposed to interesting ideas.’

In the past year, Dr Ho has been doing research with institutions like Bell Labs (Lucent Technologies’ innovation engine) and the California Institute of Technology.


While doing her PhD at MIT, she also found time to be the social chair for Edgerton House, which meant organising a number of events.

She also roller-blades, swims, plays tennis and does ballroom dancing.

Of course, she does not have a lot of time to indulge in these as she has been busy, and travelling a lot for work.

And she has been unable to practise shooting in the US as she cannot get a gun licence as a foreigner.

‘Maybe I will have time later to revive old interests,’ she said.

One thing Dr Ho did find time for was to get married, in June this year.

She met her husband, an American computer scientist, in graduate school at MIT.

But don’t worry about her losing her Singapore roots – she’s been coming back at least once or twice a year for the past decade.

She said: ‘I still regard Singapore as home. I miss family, friends, the hot humid weather (really!), warm beaches and local food, especially fruits like custard apples, jackfruits and durians.’

She aces in grades and sports

HERE’S a summary of Dr Tracey Ho’s achievements:
1983 to 1995: Admitted into the Gifted Education Programme in 1986 at age 10.
1995: Awarded the President’s Scholarship. Went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to study engineering.
1998: Won the national inter-collegiate air-pistol individual gold in Atlanta and helped MIT grab the women’s team title.
1999: Completed her Bachelors and Masters degrees in electrical engineering at MIT, with a perfect grade-point average (GPA) of 5.0.

One of two US university students to be awarded the Tau Beta Pi Laureate, given by the national engineering society.

Represented Singapore in the South-east Asia Shooting Association Championships in Bangkok in December.
2000: Represented Singapore in Asian Shooting Championships in Langkawi.
2001: Awarded the Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship for postgraduate studies. Went to pursue a PhD in electrical engineering and computer science at MIT.
2002: Received a National Science Scholarship from the Singapore Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star).
2004: Finished her PhD in three years, again with perfect GPA of 5.0.
2005: Named one of the world’s top 35 innovators under age 35 by Technology Review, MIT’s innovation magazine.

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Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

PhD Comics Tour of US campuses; 2005 Nobel Prize for Physics Of Labels and Branding; No more Rhodes for Singaporeans

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Vivienne  |  October 13, 2005 at 1:02 pm

    Well done! Doing homework for The New Paper again!

  • 2. L'oiseau rebelle  |  October 13, 2005 at 3:54 pm

    Let’s put it this way: I heard about her before she was featured in Technology Review. The apparent contradictions in the NP article are of little surprise to me.

    Disclaimer: Second-hand information is not always reliable.

  • 3. chnrxn  |  December 29, 2005 at 7:41 am

    Apparently Caltech bought out her bond. Does that make her a bond breaker?

  • 4. Anonymous  |  January 20, 2006 at 1:27 pm

    To name or not to name bond-breakers….she wasn’t named as one…and i know quite a few others who weren’t named…i wonder why…(one possibility is the parents of these unnamed bond-breakers have connections…that’s how the real world works, i guess)


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